Even though a handful of games were played this past Saturday in Week 0, September represents the first month of the college football season. And every FBS team has the same goal in mind when it comes to September — getting off to a strong start.
But that's easier said than done, as not every team's September schedule is created equal. There are several teams that are facing a rugged schedule right out of the gate whether that's due to their non-conference slate, an early start to conference play, the caliber of FCS team they are facing, or a combination of these factors. That's right, gone are the days when FBS teams can just show up to the stadium and expect to beat an FCS program.
So with that in mind, here are the five teams that better bring their A-game with them in September, because their opponents certainly will.
at Fresno State
vs. Montana State (Portland, Ore.)
The Beavers are headed in the right direction under head coach Jonathan Smith, but their September slate could prevent them from carrying over any momentum from last season's 7-6 campaign. Boise State may not be the same fearsome team it's been in the past, but it's still one of the top Group of 5 programs. Fellow Mountain West member Fresno State could end up being the Broncos' opponent in the conference title game, as well as a candidate for a New Year's Six bowl. Although Montana State may be an FCS program, the Bobcats finished runner-up to North Dakota State last season and starts 2022 ranked fourth. And while Oregon State knocked off USC last season, this is not the same Trojans team with Lincoln Riley and an influx of transfers looking to return the Men of Troy to national prominence.
at San Diego State
North Dakota State
The Wildcats took their lumps last season in head coach Jedd Fisch's debut but showed signs of progress down the stretch. This growth could be stunted, however, due to this September slate. Arizona opens on the road against a San Diego State team that's known for playing defense, beat the Wildcats (38-14) and knocked off eventual Pac-12 champion Utah (in overtime) last season, and will be playing its first game in their new venue, Snapdragon Stadium. After that, Mississippi State brings Mike Leach's patented Air Raid attack to Tucson followed by a visit from FCS powerhouse North Dakota State. The month ends with a Pac-12 road opener at California, another team that desperately wants to get this season started on the right foot.
at Ohio State
at North Carolina
The Fighting Irish's independence always results in interesting schedules, and 2022 is no different. Marcus Freeman's first regular-season game as head coach comes against his alma mater, Ohio State in Columbus. Simply put, there's no bigger game on the schedule in September. Notre Dame then has back-to-back home games against a Marshall team that went 7-6 last season but was competitive in all but two games and a California team that has played pretty solid defense during head coach Justin Wilcox's tenure. The Irish's bookend for the opening month is a visit from a North Carolina team that should bring plenty of firepower and talent to South Bend.
The Billy Napier era in Gainesville gets started with a home game against defending Pac-12 champion Utah. This Utes team should be even more explosive on offense than last season's 10-4 squad, and defense has not been a problem under Kyle Whittingham. After that, the Gators welcome SEC East rival Kentucky to the Swamp and finish out September with a visit to Rocky Top to face Tennessee. Yes, those two divisional games are broken up by a home date with USF, but it does little to mitigate the challenge that awaits Napier and Co.
Even with the home date against LIU (bonus points if you knew they are the Sharks), this is hands-down the toughest September slate in the country. Kent State has not one, not two, but THREE road games against Power 5 competition in the same month. The Golden Flashes open their season all the way out in Seattle against a Washington team eager to rebound from last season's disappointing showing, then make a trip to the heartland to face an Oklahoma team that may be undergoing a coaching transition and roster makeover but still boasts plenty of talent. Week 3 at home vs. LIU will be a nice respite, but then it's back on the road to face defending national champion Georgia in Athens. Kent State will likely come out of September battered and bruised in the box score and on the stat sheet but should be more than ready for MAC play afterward.